Category Archives: Healthcare Partners

Immunization Exemptions and Pediatric Care

As a family nurse practitioner working in a pediatric outpatient clinic, assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden (BS ’02, MS ’09) educates parents about the general health of their child. Eden frequently addresses parents’ questions and concerns regarding immunizations for their child due to the requirement that parents provide either proof of completion or a certificate of exemption before their child can be enrolled in school.

Because of her experiences talking with parents about immunizations, Eden decided to research the rising immunization exemption rates in Utah. She is currently working on a standardized education module for immunization exemptions and also a mobile app called Best for Baby.

Education Model for Immunization Exemption Rates

Immunization exemption rates, particularly those granted for philosophical reasons, have risen drastically in Utah over the last few years. The rise in exemptions may have played a role in several recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases (measles and pertussis) in Utah, which prompted Eden to research the education provided for parents who wish to obtain an exemption. Currently she is investigating the specific education requirements for philosophical immunization exemptions in all states across the country and how effective this education is at combating the rise in exemption rates.

In her research, Eden found that all 50 states allow medical exemptions for immunizations, 48 states allow religious exemptions, and 18 states allow philosophical exemptions. Utah is one of the 18 states that allows all three types of exemptions. While 18 states allow philosophical exemptions, only 14 states require education before granting exemptions. The type of education parents receive varies from state to state and from county to county throughout Utah.

Eden has discussed her study with several prominent leaders of various associations and departments, including the health director and the immunization manager at the Utah State Health Department and the chair of the Utah Department of Human Services, in efforts to implement a standardized education module for Utahns to complete in order to gain a philosophical immunization exemption. She has also been invited to participate on an immunization exemption task force with several key participants in the state and with fellow College of Nursing faculty—Dr. Beth Luthy (MS ’05), Gaye Ray (AS ’81), Dr. Janelle Macintosh, and Dr. Renea Beckstrand (AS ’81, BS ’83, MS ’87). This task force is charged with creating a standardized education module that can teach parents the signs and symptoms of diseases, what to do if their child contracts a disease, and what to do in the case of an outbreak. The module will also answer frequently asked questions about immunizations and provide information about obtaining low-cost immunizations.

The Association of Immunization Managers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have contributed to this project by aiding in the data-collection process and reviewing the research questions on educational requirements in reducing immunization exemptions.

Best for Baby App

In 2013, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) published its recommendation that pregnant women should get a Tdap vaccination between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Infants do not receive this vaccine until two months of age, but in the womb they do inherit temporary protective antibodies from their mothers, so it is essential for mothers to receive the vaccine and pass antibodies to their children in utero.

Despite being recommended by the ACIP, very few women receive the Tdap vaccine during their third trimester, so Eden, who serves as chair of the Utah County Immunization Coalition, decided to educate soon-to-be parents through a free mobile-device app called Best for Baby (now available on iTunes).

Though geared toward increasing Tdap immunization rates, the app does much more than just teach about vaccines. The program sends expectant parents weekly push notifications that provide updates on their baby’s development and when they need to see their OB/GYN. Additionally, updates tell parents what tests to expect at their next appointment, what those tests look for, and why they are performed. The app continues to give parents monthly push notifications for two years after the birth of the child. These updates include when the child should see a care provider, what developmental milestones he or she should reach during the month, and what immunizations that child should receive.

Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie! Yoga and Fingerpainting Are Back In Style In Nursing Relaxation

Note: To offer more insight into the lives of nursing students, we are sending Steven, a writer for the College of Nursing, to the weekly Nursing Stress Management Course. Steven is a Middle East Studies/Arabic major. This post contains the summaries of two of the previous classes, with the first focusing on yoga and the second on fingerpainting.

Part One: On Pain, Reflexology, and Yoga Nidra

I showed up to the stress management class excited, ready to finger-paint. I noticed quickly that everyone was wearing comfortable clothes, and was informed that there had been a change. It was now yoga day, and I was in jeans.

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Students prepare to follow instructor Maria in yoga.

Yoga and I have always had an interesting relationship. Once while visiting the mission doctor, his wife had made me do intensive yoga while I waited, a process that just barely fell short of violating the eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

I thought that I had escaped, but I was later called in to translate for a meeting with her and my mission president, in which to my horror I found myself communicating my mission president’s desire for her to teach yoga to the entire mission. That’s how the Chile Santiago North Mission found itself doing yoga at zone conferences in suits and ties, and how I became a wanted man.

For the class, we had an instructor named Maria who teaches therapeutic yoga as a way to help patients recover from medical issues. Maybe, just maybe, she could de-stress a bunch of Type A nursing students and an Arabic major doing yoga in a button up.

We started by rolling a racquetball under our feet. This was based on the ideas of reflexology, a school of thought that says that points on the hands and feet are connected to the rest of the body. By relieving those points, you can relieve other areas like the back.

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Students massage their feet with racquetballs. Reflexology says that this will help them take pressure off various points in their bodies.

Now came real yoga. We did moves that aimed to help our muscles relax. We bent over, twisted, and performed various motions. Through it all, I found myself slowly starting to feel a bit less tense. All the while, Maria explained the benefit of each move. At one point, she told assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles that we would be working on something to help her back.

“Yay, we’re going to fix me!” she cried out in glee. We all were repeating that statement in our heads.

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Maria shows students how to prepare for the puppy pose.

One of our final move combinations was first to put our legs against the wall and leave them there for several minutes. Then we laid on our backs and adjusted our feet so that our backs had less pressure.

That was when it happened—I suddenly felt asleep, but I was awake. It was a weird, halfway point. I stayed in that immensely relaxed state for a few minutes until it was time to get up, upon which Maria informed me that I had been in yoga nidra. I’m still not sure what that means, but it was nice.

By the end of the session, I felt more relaxed, as usual. This class is so helpful for figuring out the ways to de-stress that best work for each person.

Now, if you come across me with my legs propped against the wall not talking, just keep walking. It’s just yoga nidra.

 

Part Two: Oh, It’s a Jolly Holiday with Leslie!

It was the afternoon. Students milled around, hauling large sheets of paper and eagerly grabbing the paint. Fingers were saturated in orange, blue, red, yellow, and purple as they worked to create masterpieces. Sometimes it got on the desks, but the teacher was used to this.

Spoiler: this isn’t a kindergarten class. This is nursing stress management, and I may or not have been the main culprit behind the paint on the desk (I cleaned it up!).

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Students gather supplies for painting and coloring.

Assistant teaching professor Leslie Miles had brought in lots of paper, both to color and to fingerpaint. Everyone was excited. Today was art and music therapy day, possibly the most anticipated class of the term.

After reviewing our stress levels in groups, we proceeded to discuss how music aids relaxation. Miles explained that not all music is equal in this area—songs with various chord changes are better suited than many modern songs, which are simply repetitive. She impersonated a rap song, but my life would be in jeopardy if I dared repeat it here.

With that, we each got our supplies and began our artistic adventures. In the background, Miles was blaring one of her favorite albums—the original Mary Poppins soundtrack.

I began a relentless campaign to replace every white spot on my paper with some color. In the end, my creation resembled many of my friends returning home from the Festival of Colors.

Others, however, were superbly done. Miles was surprised at the quality of the artwork, and I was surprised at how each student seemed to be focused wholly on the project and not any impending nursing deadlines.

I could go on, but pictures here do more justice than words.

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The Magic Yarn Project and BYU Team Up to Make Wigs for Childhood Cancer Patients

Last Saturday in what turned out to be a landmark service project, over 400 people crowded the Wilkinson Center ballroom to create Disney-themed wigs for kids with cancer. The project, sponsored by The Magic Yarn Project and the BYU College of Nursing, was a massive success.

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The Magic Yarn Project co-founder Holly Christensen works with volunteers to prepare a Moana wig.

“I did not expect to have so many people show up,” Holly Christensen, a BYU College of Nursing alumna and co-founder of The Magic Yarn Project, says.

The Magic Yarn Project is a non-profit group started by Christensen in Alaska. It relies entirely on donors and volunteers to make the soft-yarn hairpieces, so the BYU event represented a huge increase in both productivity and publicity.

“We’ve never done a workshop this big,” she says. “I’m completely touched and overwhelmed by how many people came and it’s hard for me not to get too emotional thinking about it but it’s been awesome.”

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Volunteers make Moana-inspired wigs

During the course of the five-hour project, 185 wigs were made, with styles ranging from Elsa to Jack Sparrow to Rapunzel and other Disney-related characters. This was a record number for the Magic Yarn Project, and during the event, many participants were touched by the potential impact of their work.

“I really enjoyed this,” student Dhina Clement says. “I definitely felt like this was the most productive that I have ever been.”

Nursing student Jessica Wright agrees. “This is an awesome volunteer experience because you feel like what you’re doing is helping someone,” she says. “You can imagine having the wig on a little girl’s head and how happy she’ll be when she sees it.”

Students were not the only ones working—many members of the wider Utah Valley community arrived, oftentimes with large amounts of children in tow in order for many hands to make light work.

“I heard about this through a friend from work, and I thought it was just a great idea to come and just put my effort into it for any of the kids who need it,” says Esme Still, whose children worked beside her. In addition, five nursing professors were also present braiding and preparing wigs.

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The Wilkinson Center ballroom was completely full of volunteers. 185 wigs were made in the five-hour project.

Around half of the wigs made at this event will be given to patients at Primary Children’s Hospital, while others will be sent to patients in Louisiana and Arizona. The impacts of the project, however, extend also to the participants, who felt grateful to have been able to contribute to the event.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to bring some joy to some people and it was really easy and fun and simple,” student Sam Smith says. “It’s nice to wake up on a Saturday morning and do something for someone else.”

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Anyone interested in future volunteer opportunities with The Magic Yarn Project should visit http://www.themagicyarnproject.com/.

Students Learn the Balancing Act at the “Struggle to Juggle” Conference

Yesterday, the BYU College of Nursing hosted its annual Professionalism Conference.  Students listened to speakers, attended breakout sessions on topics related to overcoming the rigors of nursing life, and met prospective employers.

“The thing that I like most about this is that I think it helps you be aware of the things that will be coming,” says capstone student Ashea Hanna, who is slated to graduate in April.

Others also gained a lot from the theme of the conference, which was “Struggle to Juggle.” Breakout topics ranged from healthy eating to handling compassion fatigue, while others treated financial independence and nursing ethics.

“It helped me learn how to balance a couple of things like sleep and self-care, but then also broaden my perspective a little,” fourth-semester student Micai Nethercott says.

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Capstone student McCall Van Leeuwen particularly enjoyed the breakout session held by a non-nursing professional, since it offered the chance to feel appreciated as a student nurse and become aware of her possible positive impact on others.

Meanwhile, back in the Garden Court over fifteen booths were set up with representatives from various hospitals and agencies proffering information to students about future job opportunities.

One such station was for Wyoming State Hospital, which is roughly 100 miles away. There a decorative poster highlighted the offered $29 per hour wage for new nursing graduates.

“We need nurses and [BYU’s program is] a great nursing program,” expressed one representative of the hospital when asked why they had come so far. This sentiment was common among vendors, many of whom had various open positions they hoped students could fill.

Jesse, a representative of Intermountain Healthcare’s Dixie Regional Medical Center, had several students express interest in working in St. George.

“We’ve had quite a few, and most of them are very excited,” he said. He and his colleagues liked that the conference brought students close to them and offered students different opportunities to seek employment with various groups at assorted places.

In the end, the conference managed to help students understand how to take care of themselves and their careers during future years, all while enjoying a free lunch.

“Overall, it’s just really good helping me understand the balance I need in my future career,” capstone student Bethany Borup says.

 

 

Enrichment in Education, Part Four: Simulation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

This story is part of an ongoing series about the BYU College of Nursing’s Mary Jane Rawlinson Geertsen Nursing Learning Center and the College’s constant efforts to update it.

This past summer, sixteen BYU College of Nursing faculty and staff received three days of intensive simulation training. The process, one could say, has modeled a path to success for any nursing college.

The course, offered by Intermountain Healthcare and hosted at LDS Hospital, was tailored specifically to the needs of BYU staff. It was in part the brainchild of assistant teaching professor Stacie Hunsaker, who, after six years of working with simulation, felt that it would be beneficial to standardize the training that college employees received.

“They held a course for us, and it was great because as a team we were able to experience specific issues to our simulation and work on very specific items related to BYU nursing, so it was really helpful for us to be there as a team,” Hunsaker says.

After receiving a thick binder full of notes, the teachers were taught important ideas about using simulation in instruction, including the need for establishing good communication between students and helping them get engaged in the activities.

“By going to that course, all of us were able to get that same consistent information, so now we can hopefully provide a better experience for the students of all semesters who participate in simulation,” Hunsaker says.

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NLC Supervisor Colleen Tingey works with other staff to practice simulation drills intended to benefit students.

Part of the process was participating in and creating scenarios; it was as though the teachers became the students as they practice different situations and were critiqued on how they performed. Staff also worked to implement new ideas into existing simulations as well as develop new ones for this year’s teaching.

“We were able as groups to develop objectives for all of our simulations and then put them into consistent formats throughout all semesters,” Hunsaker says. “So now we have all of them set up so that they’ll have a prebrief, a simulation, and a debriefing moment.”

Getting everyone on the same page was a key motivator to implement the training, and the college is making all efforts to preserve the progress made. Now all new staff will be able to take the course when hired, and there are two meetings a semester to evaluate how well simulation principles are being applied in the classrooms.

While the training may be costly, Dean Patricia Ravert believes that simulation is “really integral to our program” and thus merits the effort to advance it.

“We want to have a top-notch program, which we do, and we want to maintain that,” she says. “We want to make sure that the students really have great experiences.” Both she and Hunsaker believe that the training establishes a stronger base of unity and understanding among the simulation staff.

“It really brings us together as a team because we all have the same foundation now,” Hunsaker says. “We all know we can all give good, valid information, not that it was bad before, but I think that it just brought everything together and provided so much consistency. Now we’re all using the same terminology. We all know how a sim is supposed to run.”

 

Dr. Stephanie L. Ferguson To Address Nursing College Event

 

This year’s annual Scholarly Works Conference brings a special treat for BYU nursing students: a chance to hear from the world-renowned nursing expert Dr. Stephanie L. Ferguson.

Dr. Ferguson has years of experience in the health industry. She founded and is president of a health-consulting firm that has clients all over the world. Her travels have seen her visit over 140 countries.

Her employers have included the World Health Organization and the White House. Leadership has been a defining character of her career, with positions including:

  • Elected member of the National Academy of Medicine/Institute of Medicine
  • Member of the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Catholic health Association
  • Director of the International Council of Nurses’ Leadership for Global Change Programme
  • Co-chair of the American Academy of Nursing’s Institute for Nursing Leadership
  • Director of the Washington Health Policy Institute in the Center for Health Policy, Research and Ethics
  • Director of the ICN-Burdett Global Nursing Leadership Institute, located in Switzerland

Dr. Ferguson’s topic is “Building and Sustaining Healthy Nations: Leading the Way Forward.” While registration for the conference is now closed, the college will provide information next week about Dr. Ferguson’s presentation, as well as about select breakout sessions.

Convergence: How One Disease Brought Four Lives Together

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Representatives from the awareness group Meningitis Angels accompanied by four BYU faculty members, with Beth Luthy and Lacey Eden on the far left, and Janelle Mcintosh and Renea Beckstrand on the far right.

Meningitis. It ebbs and flows in terms of public visibility, and for some people the disease is either unknown or not a concern. For others, however, it is constantly on their minds as they work to combat the risk of another outbreak.

Friday, September 16 will see the awareness group Meningitis Angels at BYU presenting information about the disease. Those in attendance will include Johnny Dantona and Leslie Meigs, two meningitis survivors, as well as Frankie Milley, the group’s founder and national executive director. Also present will be Lacey Eden, an assistant teaching professor whose passion is promoting vaccinations.

Here are their stories.

 

“I see those kids that are so helpless.”good-8

“I don’t know anything about it.”

That’s the phrase that assistant teaching professor Lacey Eden believes a lot of college students think when asked about meningitis, the infectious disease capable of wreaking havoc on a college campus.

“There’s not many people that know a whole lot about Meningitis B,” Eden says. That, she explains, becomes especially problematic on college campuses, where various factors including proximity of students, poor diets, little sleep, and lack of immunization requirements increase the possibility of an outbreak.

Besides teaching at the Nursing College, Eden also educates the general public about preventing infectious diseases through vaccinations. In fact, her involvement in that cause is what brought the Meningitis Angels, who work in the same cause, to her in the first place.

“It all started with House Bill 221 last year, which was a bill to require education before parents could get their immunization exemptions,” Eden says. The bill, which did not pass, would have required that parents learn more about immunizations before they could refuse vaccinations for their children. Eden and fellow teacher Beth Luthy worked tirelessly to promote it, meeting with the bill’s sponsor, Utah Representative Carol Moss, to help her write it and also giving interviews to the media.

This all made her a viable partner for the Angels’ upcoming Utah awareness campaign. As a vaccination advocate, she has accomplished much, including creating an app that helps mothers know when to immunize their babies and also heading a special interest group on immunizations for the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. As a teacher, she knows how to work with students and faculty.

In April, the Angels asked for Eden’s help. She agreed; her first assignment was to meet with student body presidents from various Utah colleges to discuss meningitis and how to prevent it. The student body presidents, in turn, would return to their colleges and spread the information.

“So the whole idea behind the Meningitis B Awareness campaign is to educate college students about Meningitis B,” Eden says. “They took it back to the student body officers and talked about how they could do their awareness campaign on campus.”

Getting the correct information out there for students is a key focus for Eden.

“Even if we can educate a very small percentage of those people, hopefully those people will then educate their friends, and then their friends will educate their friends, and hopefully we can see people being more aware of this,” she says.

Another eventual goal of hers is helping develop college vaccination requirements, including at BYU. Utah is one of few states that does not have university vaccination laws.

“I think we should, especially because when you consider the severity of meningitis and how quickly it can be debilitating and even cause death, the fact that there is an immunization to prevent that. Even though it’s a small chance that you could get it, the repercussions are totally worth the requirement to get vaccinated,” Eden says.

One of her biggest motivations is her belief that immunizations are a social responsibility. If one person doesn’t get vaccinated, she explains, they could be putting individuals in their community at risk, especially those with weaker immunization systems.

“I think for me it’s those individuals who are immunocompromised and unable to get immunized, so they depend on everyone else to be immunized to protect them,” Eden says. “As my experience in the pediatric office, I see those kids that are so helpless, and those who can get severely ill from things like that, and to me it’s all about that. Protecting the weakest in our community is really a reflection of how we are as a whole.”

She also understands the wide array of opinions that are spread online, many of which are not backed by substantial medical evidence. Her hope is that this event will help students understand the facts behind the disease, and also that in the future students will rely on dependable sources for information about it.

“I feel like college students are very savvy with social media, and they can very easily get messages on social media about immunizations that are false,” Eden says. “I would just encourage them that while they’re doing their research that they look for credible, reliable research and sources that have a scientific basis and proof about vaccines and their safety.”

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“If you give up, you’re not going to get anywhere.”good-6

Johnny Dantona, 21, of North Carolina is definitely the athletic type. He enjoys baseball and basketball, and every Monday tries to make it to the bowling lane with family or friends.

“It’s a little difficult the way I have to stand and everything, but I do what I like to do,” Dantona says. It’s a little difficult for him because when he was three, he contracted meningitis and lost both legs.

Meningitis is a disease that inflames the area around the back and brain. It comes in many forms, including bacterial meningitis, which can kill a person in less than a day. Other times it leaves its victims with intensive medical issues. Dantona was no exception.

“I don’t remember much because I was so young, but I know that I was fine one minute during the day and then by midnight I was on life support in the hospital. I was in there for six months,” he says. “I ended up losing my fingers, both my legs, and the disease actually hit my whole left side of my body so my left side is weaker than my right.” That includes the left side of his brain, which slowed down his learning ability.

The years following the infection have had their challenges. Learning problems, medical costs, and the effort to obtain special prosthetics that insurance won’t cover have all been obstacles, but Dantona is not a quitter.

“If you give up, you’re not going to get anywhere. For me, this pushes me to do what I want to do, what I think is right,” he says. He walks the talk; Dantona was an ROTC member in high school and for training ran a mile on the track without his prosthetics. Despite the pain, he still goes out to try and walk as much as he can.

His family was eventually contacted by Frankie Milley and he soon joined the Meningitis Angels. Dantona is a national teen leader within the organization. His passion is helping raise awareness of the vaccination for college students.

“If it helps them, it makes me feel better knowing that they’re not going to go through the same stuff that I went through, or worse,” he says. “That’s what keeps me going.”

Despite the trials he has faced, he appreciates that his experience can have a positive impact on his fellowmen.

“With the college students though, even if they don’t understand what [meningitis] is, they see the side effects of what the disease does, so then most of them will go out and probably look it up and people will learn more about it if they want to,” he says. “I think them seeing us and how we look and how we get around is what helps them out a lot more, too.

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“What’s frustrating is that it’s all preventable.”good-5

Leslie Meigs, 26, doesn’t strike people as someone who came within inches of death from meningitis. However, her story reveals a long and painful journey spanning nearly 20 years.

When she was eight, the Texas native one day began feeling ill. Everyone assumed that it was the flu.

“Long story short, that night I was life-flighted to Texas Children’s Hospital and put on a ventilator,” she says. “They put me into a drug-induced coma for two months. There was a point where my brain function was almost completely gone, and the hospital had voted to go ahead and stop life support.”

Right when the doctors were about to tell her family the hospital’s decision, her right hand stirred. That saved her life and started her path to recovery. Slowly, she says, her brain function returned. However, the disease left her with a long list of health complications.

“I had to learn how to walk again. I have scarring all over my body,” Meigs says. “I had to go on continual dialysis because my kidneys were covered in scars, and so a lot of my scarring is internal. I have a lot of organ damage, a lot of blood issues.” In fact, years after she contracted the disease she had to receive a new kidney, donated by her father, and now has to take many medications to ensure that everything functions.

Meigs says that life for a survivor is difficult, both physically and mentally.

“So one of the big points I like to make when talking to fellow students or talking to the public in general is that with this disease, you don’t just get it and its gone,” she says. “If you’re lucky enough to survive the disease, you are reminded of it every single day, and you suffer every single day because of it.  It’s something that you have to learn to live with.”

“What’s frustrating is that it’s all preventable,” she says.

Meigs was one of the first victims with whom Milley worked. Milley had her help promote a bill designed to educate Texan citizens about the dangers of meningitis. Now, years later, Meigs works as a national teen leader for the group.

“Being able to communicate with people just how horrifying this disease is and how important it is to protect yourself and in doing so you protect others, it gives a purpose to our experiences to know that we can actually help people from experiencing this same sort of suffering and financial costs,” she says. “[Meningitis is] a long word of a long disease slapped onto the news with every other issue that’s going on, so to be able to put a picture, a face to it is what really makes the difference.”

Meigs is a strong advocate for everyone to receive the vaccination, not just to protect themselves but also others.

“The example I like to give for it being a public health issue is that it’s in the same line as traffic laws. You don’t stop a stop sign just to protect yourself,” she says. “You stop at a stop sign for other people. You don’t vaccinate just to protect yourself. You vaccinate to protect your entire community.”

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“Ryan didn’t have to die.”good-7

Frankie Milley is an exuberant Texas native who loves a good laugh. However, when it comes to talking about her work at Meningitis Angels, behind the smile is pain. Her story is one of loss and coping, as well as dedication to preventing further tragedies.

It all started Father’s Day, 1998. Her only child, Ryan, began to have a fever along with an earache.

“He was eighteen, just reached his pro golf status, just graduated high school, and was getting ready to go to college,” she says. Events quickly took a turn for the worst, in the process changing Milley’s life forever.

“Fourteen hours later he was laying on an emergency room table with blood coming from every orifice of his body, and he died,” she says.

Milley could not believe what had happened. In retrospect, she can now see that her situation paralleled that of many who have lost family to meningitis; there was limited information available at the time about the disease and the vaccine to prevent it. Milley became determined to change that.

“First I grieved, then I got angry, and then I got busy,” she says.

Since that day, she has helped write, by her count, almost 42 laws addressing vaccinations and meningitis.

In 2001 she founded the Meningitis Angels as a group dedicated to spreading facts to families. According to her, it was instrumental in convincing the CDC to put up recommendations about meningitis vaccinations. The group also works to educate policymakers about the issues involving the disease so that they make informed decisions.

Beyond those fields, the group serves as a hub for families who have been affected by the disease.

“Meningitis Angels also does a lot of hands-on work with the kids who are victims. We offer scholarships for college and technical training. We provide special equipment for the kids sometimes when the insurance doesn’t cover it,” she says.

The kids affectionately refer to Milley as “momma bear.”

“We’re a national support group. We’re like a big family,” she says. “We have a good time. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried together.”

That support becomes critical for families facing down meningitis. Milley lists several possible results of each case that extend beyond just the physical, including financial ruin, insurance problems, and fracturing of families.

She gives as an example one child within the organization who lost his arms and legs, thus requiring an attendant all day, every day.

To her, the choice becomes clear.

“If you weigh all the costs of all of that—some of it you can’t even put a price on, it’s life—if you put the price on the economics and the cost of the aftercare of meningitis, not to mention the millions that the first initial arrival to the hospital can take, what’s a vaccine?” she says.

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